"Then again, you could go to the French and pick up a couple of their old Mirages. You'd save major bucks. Or you could go to Israel or South Africa and pick up a Kfir or a Cheetah, which are basically knock-offs of the same thing."
"That sounds like a good idea," I said.
"Ah, but! But when the renovations get done on the president's house and he orders an Air Force flyby to celebrate, what happens? He sees a squadron of Mirages fly overhead, turns to you, and says `Mirages? Mirages? That's what the guys next door are flying!' And he gives you your walking papers."
"It's a tough world," I said "What I should have done is bought some good, solid American aircraft."
"No, you've got me wrong." Ernie said. "The U.S. doesn't sell decent aircraft to Third World countries. The Mirage is the only jet for you."
"But what about the President?" I asked.
"Well, he wouldn't be so mad if he had a new pool as well, would he? That's where we come in. What you do is call the State Department hotline and tell them that you're thinking of going commie. Immediately you get shifted from the "Good Friends" to the "Questionable Friends" category up on the Hill."
"No, I don't," I protested.
"JUST LISTEN," Ernie said. "Congress decides to woo you back into the fold, and votes you $100 million in food stamps."
"Ah," I said. "But the President doesn't like food stamps."
"True. So you come to me. I take food stamps. With my discounts, you'll get the jets, the renovations, and a new pool. The boss will love you."
Ernie gestured at the Red Sea below us. "You want to try some of this stuff out? I got a brand-new Exocet missile slung out of this baby, best firecracker in the world."
"But we're in a rather heavily populated region of the globe," I pointed out.
"True," he said. "But everyone's at war anyway. Iran, Iraq, North Yemen, South Yemen, Lebanon, Syria--no one will know the difference. Pick a target, any target--look, there's a ship down there. Ready?"
"That looks to me like a U.S. Navy ship," I said.
"Yeah, but they've got the state of the art anti-missile defense system, the Phalanx. Completely automatic. Safe as can be. And frankly, well, these Exocets make a lot of noise, but they don't always go off." He brought the plane down to wavetop level and, with an impressive wooshing of flames and superheated gas, let the missile fly.
"That was great, wasn't it?" Ernie asked, as the Exocet sped off on its course. Soon we were back at altitude, heading home. As we passed over the strait of Gibraltar, Ernie suddenly turned to me, a look of shock on his face.
"Oh shit," he said. "I sold them that Phalanx."
Rutger Fury, the longtime political correspondent for the National Enquirer and former Bimini customs agent, is a close personal friend of Jeffrey J. Wise.